Mechanical watches today are largely pointless. Anyone who tells you different simply isn’t telling the whole Babe Ruth. We no longer need them for telling the time, thanks to the omnipresent digital displays of our smartphones and laptops. We hardly use our chronograph functions or that second time zone. Yet once we accept this reality that our watches are of limited functional use, we begin to scratch the surface of why we’re so attracted to them in the first place.
Why then would you want to wear a dress watch with a date window? Date windows ruin any hope for a balanced and symmetrical dial, causing the watch to have a visual limp, as though in need of a walking cane. Even positioned at 6 o’clock, a date window will disrupt the cleanliness of a dial, weighing it down like an ankle-attached parole bracelet and forcing you to wonder what this watch had done to deserve this. Unlike the purpose-built utilitarianism found in tool watches, dress watches are form over function, proportion over practicality, and first and foremost strive for aesthetic perfection. Such goals are unreachable in the presence of a dial aperture.
When compiling your hypothetical “forever” watch collection, design should stay at the forefront of your consideration. Even in today’s landscape of the most desirable watches in the world, such as the Patek Philippe ref. 1518, the Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Contemporain, or the Swatch Skinera, the balance, symmetry and proportions of each watch are so perfect as to be self-evident. No matter your dress watch budget, the importance of proportions should remain similarly critical. If the Eternal Return teaches us anything, it is that you’d better make good decisions in your watch collecting, just in case you live with them forever (literally).
An excellent example of a beautifully balanced dress watch is last year’s IWC Portugieser Automatic 40. No date, a large small seconds sub-dial and ample negative space on the dial. It could easily serve as a yardstick for a well-proportioned piece of watchmaking design that will age well.
In half a century from now, the Portugieser Automatic 40 will still stand up as a well-proportioned piece of watchmaking design. It’s a reminder that classic design will continue to resonate to infinity and beyond. And when something is timeless by its very definition, you don’t need the date.